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New Tunisian electoral law raises issue of military’s role in politics

The Tunisian parliament approved a new law on municipal elections, which granted military and security members the right to vote and raised concerns that the decision threatens the institutions' neutrality.
Tunisian soldiers listen to the national anthem along the frontier with Libya in Sabkeht Alyun,Tunisia February 6, 2016. Tunisia has completed a 200-km (125 mile) barrier along its frontier with Libya to try to keep out Islamist militants, and will soon install electronic monitoring systems, Defence Minister Farhat Hachani said on Saturday. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi - RTX25SJ3

On Feb. 2, the Tunisian parliament approved a law related to local and municipal elections, granting members of the security and military institutions the right to vote for the first time in the country’s history. This precedent sparked controversy in Tunisia, as some people believe that military officers should enjoy the right to vote, just like their fellow citizens, while others believe that passing such a law will jeopardize the impartiality of the military institution and will involve it in political affairs.

After years of complete neutrality in political and electoral life, Tunisian soldiers, officers and security members will cast their votes in the upcoming municipal and local elections. Chapter 6 of the new local electoral law states that “military and security officers are allowed to vote in local and municipal elections only.” But this law contradicts Article 18 of the Tunisian Constitution, which states, “The national army is a republican army charged with the responsibility to defend the nation, its independence and its territorial integrity. It is required to remain completely impartial.”

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